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March 26, 2024 Admin

Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse blocks $80B in cargo from moving through port: ‘Major disaster’

Our own Michael P. Mezzacappa and Karl MacGibbon share their insights on the economic impact

By Ronny Reyes, March 26, 2024

The collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge is a “major disaster” that threatens to disrupt the $80 billion in cargo that travels to and from one of America’s busiest ports, experts said.

The Port of Baltimore stands as the nation’s leading import and export site for cars, light trucks, sugar and gypsum — with a record 52.3 million tons of foreign cargo transported in 2023.

The bustling port, however, has been rendered inaccessible to shipping vessels following the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge overnight, with shipping expert Lars Jensen, CEO of Vespucci Maritime, warning of the economic impacts after officials offered no clear timeline on when the port will reopen.

“This is a major disaster and will create significant problems on the US East Coast for US importers and exporters,” Jensen wrote on LinkedIn.

“The bridge collapse will mean that for the time being it will not be possible to get to the container terminals — or a range of the other port terminals — in Baltimore.

“Additionally this means the cargo already gated into the Baltimore terminals would have to either wait an unknown period for the sealane to reopen, or be gated back out and shifted to a different port,” he added.

Paul Wiedefeld, Maryland’s secretary of transportation, told reporters Tuesday that vessel traffic in and out of the Port of Baltimore would be suspended until further notice, but noted that the port is still open to trucks.

Attorney Michael Mezzacappa, an expert on property damage cases in the shipping industry, told The Post that the collapse will have a major impact on shipping and traffic routes on the East Coast for the foreseeable future.

“It’s not going to get fixed anytime soon,” Mezzacappa said of the bridge, which allowed about 34,000 vehicles to get across the Patapsco River every day.

“It’s going to take a lot longer than anyone expects,” he added. “This is going to be a major problem for the northeast.”

Karl MacGibbon, the director of Quality Assurance and Control at Coffey Modica and another expert on shipping cargo damage, told The Post that it could be at least 4 months before the port can reopen, with ports in the New York area likely to pick up some of the shipments.

“We’ll have to see what happens and where the shipments can be diverted as New Jersey and New York’s ports are already busy to begin with,” MacGibbon said.

Gov. Wes Moore said the reconstruction of the Key Bridge will likely be a “long-term build,” without offering any specifics.

“It’s going to be a build that’s going to require every facet and every aspect of our society. It is something that I can tell you we are going to get this done,” Moore said.

President Biden offered proof of how important the port is to the economy. He vowed to “move heaven and Earth” to help repair the bridge and help those employed at the Port of Baltimore.

“We’re going to do everything we can to protect those jobs and help those workers,” the president said.

The port area also supports the cruise industry, with Carnival, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean carrying about 440,000 passengers on trips across the Patapsco River last year, according to the Baltimore Banner.

Royal Caribbean said in a statement that it was closely monitoring the situation in Baltimore and “working on alternatives for Vision of the Seas’ ongoing and upcoming sailings.”

The Port of Baltimore also generates more than 15,300 jobs, with another 140,000 jobs linked to the activity at the port.

Scott Cowan, president of the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 333 in the Port of Baltimore, warned that the bridge’s collapse will likely have a “catastrophic” impact for those employed there.

“Until the shipping channel gets opened, there’s not gonna be any ship traffic, there’s not gonna be any ships, there’s not gonna be any work for the people,” Cowan told the Baltimore Sun.

Read the full article in the New York Post.